Now that Go8 advise border closure for another six months, Is it time to drop any hope of a late 2020 Aussie intake?

As Australian Go8 Universities advise  to keep borders closed for 2020, time to call off any hope for October-November intake. Pity indeed… as the November “mini” intake offered an opportunity to test pre-travel testing and a quarantine before the intake in 2021.

I had recommended a solution that can allow international student travel even before a vaccine is found.  In my earlier blog the recommendation was…

So, can we still restart the engine of “international student recruitment”? Even before there is a vaccine and without risking the country’s health?

I believe it is easily possible if we have the will. Students want to travel and gain education and also make their life. There will be a decline in interest for a few years and that is natural but there will be students who will want to follow what is required to still travel. We must bear in mind that students (and work permit holders) often are required to undertake a medical test before being granted a visa. That medical test is taken at a medical facility empanelled by the visa-granting country. This medical test can include a Covid19 test and paid for by the student. The naysayers indicate that there is  a one month gap between the medical test and the travel and the student may get infected during this period. I feel that the risk is small but still if we want to reduce it, we can leave the Covid19 test to be taken within 48 hours of the travel and the visa can be granted subject to this test. The student may only be allowed to travel having met the requirement. On arrival, the student can be required to self-quarantine in coordination with the Universities for a period of time or may take the quick rapid test on arrival paid for by the Universities. It is not such a difficult compromise and if it can help to open up the borders quicker, we must give it a try. It is possible that with more and more advancement in testing and testing methods, even tourism can begin. There are articles that indicate that some airlines are considering a blood test before boarding. I do feel that such are more achievable in short term than the vaccine which might or might not arrive for over a year.

It is not appropriate to delay the containment of the other pandemic: Economical loss. A loss in International student recruitment can possibly lead to job losses and also increase the fees of domestic students. It seems that now that the country is moving towards normalcy, the logic put forth resonates with various experts. The Australian in their Higher Education Supplement today comment

Several things need to be done to avoid this escalating impact on education exports. First, many of the students who are currently enrolled need to get support to help them finish their course. Many have lost their part-time jobs. They don’t get JobSeeker or JobKeeper benefits and, while universities, other education providers and some state governments are doing their best to support them, more is needed.

Second, if it is consistent with expert health advice, the federal government needs to smooth the way for international students to arrive for first semester next year. This might involve testing incoming students for COVID-19; it also might require quarantine arrangements. But making that investment is worthwhile for a $40bn industry.

Nobody knows if the international education export business will recover to its former level. It’s possible that families in China, India and other countries will pull back from sending the children abroad because they are suffering economically. It’s also possible that, in the growing atmosphere of tension with China, that the Chinese government will put limits on students coming here.

But is also possible that Australia will be a very attractive destination for students next year if our main competitor countries, the US and Britain, are still be struggling with COVID-19.

I am aware that students graduating from Schools and Universities in the South Asian countries can’t enrol in the forthcoming July-August intake but I was still hopeful that the few Universities that run a trimester format with an intake in November (or run an active intake at that time) would still have been able to put out a possibility. My hope is/was also that the Government would use the November intake as a way to test the system of testing before departure and a period of self-quarantine offered by Universities on arrival. 

However, now that Australian so-called-ivy-leagues and their researchers have put together a document for the Government as the roadmap for recovery and which is to be considered by the Government later this month, this will be seen as the advise of the University sector. The recommendations include guidance on how to go about with international travel restrictions. The report is downloadable on this link and the relevant screenshot is being shared here.

Vicki Thomson, chief executive of the Group of Eight universities, said:

“We hope that what we have provided will now greatly assist the government as it wrestles to work through how best to take Australia forward with this decision due in mid-May.”

Minister Greg Hunt told the Group of Eight team when they started the project it would

“help inform, guide and where necessary challenge our ongoing work and for that I am deeply thankful”.

Time to call off any hope for even October-November 2020 intake? 

Pity… as the 2020 November “mini” intake of a few Universities would have offered an opportunity to test pre-travel Covid19 testing and post-arrival quarantine for International Students before the intake in 2021. Chalo, at least we have some direction even if it results from the recommendations of the Universities that had nothing to offer in terms of an intake in November.


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